Luke 8:18
These words of our Lord may have been a familiar aphorism of his time, or they may have been a sententious saying of his own, having many applications. Certainly they are significant of many things. They may be regarded as expressing for us -

I. A SACRED DUTY WE ARE CALLED UPON TO DISCHARGE. It is in this sense our Lord used them on the occasion reported by Matthew (Matthew 10:25-27). What was then hidden in the minds of the disciples they were to reveal to the world in due time; the truth which the Master was making known to them "in the darkness" they were to "speak in the light." And this duty is of universal obligation. What God reveals to us and what is, at first, hidden in our own soul we are bound to bring forth into the light of day. It may be any kind of truth - medical, agricultural, commercial, economical, moral, or directly and positively religious; whatever we have learned that is of value to the world we have no right to retain for our own private benefit, Truth is common property; it should be open to all men, like the air and the sunshine. When God, in any way, says to us, "Know;" he also says, "Teach; pass on to your brethren what I have revealed to you; 'there is nothing secret that shall not be made manifest, nor hid that shall not be known.'"

II. A SERIOUS FACT WE DO WELL TO CONSIDER. Guilt loves secrecy. "Every one that doeth evil hateth the light.., lest his deeds should be reproved." Men that sin against God and their own conscience would be only too glad to know that their deeds were finally buried and would never reappear. But no man may take this consolation to his soul. Secret things are disclosed; there is an instinctive feeling expressed in the common Belief that "murder will out," that flagrant wrong will sooner or later be exposed. We may not say that no crimes have ever been successfully concealed; but we may safely say that no man, however careful and ingenious he may be in the art of concealing, can be at all sure that his iniquity will not be laid bare. And this will apply to lesser as well as larger evils. Habits of secret drinking, of impurity, of dishonesty, of vindictive passion, will sooner or later betray themselves and bring shame on their victim. Indeed, so closely allied are the body and the spirit, so constantly does the former receive impressions from the latter, that there is no emotion, however deep it may be within the soul, which will not, after a time, reveal itself in the countenance, or write its signature in some way on "the flesh." If illegible to the many, it is still there, to he read by those who have eyes to see, and to be seen of God. There is a very true sense in which "nothing is secret that shall not be made manifest" even here. But this is more perfectly and strikingly true of the future.

III. A CERTAINTY IN THE FUTURE WE SHALL WISELY ANTICIPATE. There is a "day when God shall judge the secrets of men" Romans 2:16). when he "will bring to light the hidden things of darkness, and will make manifest the counsels of the hearts" (1 Corinthians 4:5). Then shall these words be indeed fulfilled. Then may we know how:

1. This language will prove a terrible prediction; our buried and forgotten iniquities being Brought back to us, God "reproving us, and setting them [our sins] before our face" (Psalm 50:21).

2. This warning may be met and modified; our sins, having been repented of and forgiven, will be buried in those depths of Divine mercy whence they will never be brought back (Psalm 103:11, 12; Micah 7:18, 19).

3. These words may constitute a blessed promise - all acts of pity, of patience, of kindness, of mercy, of magnanimity, of self-sacrifice, reappearing for Divine approval and award. "Then shall every man have praise of God." - C.







Take heed, therefore, how ye hear.
Several classes of persons, to be met with in every congregation, should attend to this caution.

I. In the first rank of these may be placed THE INDIFFERENT HEARER.

II. Another class of persons who should give heed to the warning of the text are represented by THE CRITICAL HEARER.

III. A third class of church-goers who derive little benefit from preaching, may be described as CAPTIOUS HEARERS.

1. Endeavour always to listen to the preaching of the gospel with a mind free from prejudice. Blind prepossessions and one-sided prejudices are like the trade winds, which, holding out in one course, render compass and rudder alike useless. When prejudice puts its hands before the eyes, that hand, small as it is, will be large enough to hide the sun.

2. Again. Sermons should be heard with a desire to profit by them.

3. Lastly. Sermons should be heard with humble dependence on God's Holy Spirit, to open the understanding and to touch the heart. Plead His own promise (Isaiah 55:10, 11).

(J. N. Norton, D. D.)

The Church teaches and is taught in turn; every Christian contributes to this mutual teaching, and has a share in it. Preaching can only have a strictly moral effect; it communicates to us thoughts and feelings, and therefore appeals to the thought and to the feeling. It provokes decisions, and therefore stimulates the will. It is accordingly the most moral means of grace, that which necessitates most the effective participation of our freedom. "Take heed, therefore, how ye hear." To give more weight to that exhortation, let us consider who He is who speaks to us; what He tells us; the kind of attention which the truth revealed by Him requires; and, lastly, what it costs to despise it.

I. WHO SPEAKS TO YOU IN THE TEACHING WHICH YOU SEEK AT THE FOOT OF THE PULPIT OF TRUTH? DO you not know that it is God Himself? He speaks to you first by the Holy Book, which is the basis of all faithful preaching. Revelation must become real and present, passing through the impressions, the aspirations, the experiences, the secret sorrows of the human heart at every period. Certainly, our word must not be blindly received — it must be brought to the test of the infallible Word of God: for the pure gold of truth which we bring you by preaching is too often alloyed through human frailty. God condescends to speak through our unworthy mouths and to take us for His instruments also. Why, my brethren, do you so seldom perceive this? It is, in the first place, the fault of your preachers, who, too often being infatuated with themselves, interposing their personalities between you and the truth, care more for the fame of their name than for the triumph of Jesus Christ. Are you not constantly spreading under their feet that fatal net of vainglory?

II. It is God who speaks to you; BUT WHAT DOES HE TELL YOU? That which is of the utmost consequence to you — that which is necessary for time and for eternity. God does not speak to amuse our intellect, or to send to our hearts a sweet and figurative emotion. He wants to restore us to the truth in every respect. He reveals us to ourselves by rooting out every illusion of our mind. He shows us, in the narrow path which proceeds from the cross, the way of returning to God and to be restored to our own.

III. THE KIND OF ATTENTION REQUIRED. Shut up, as we are commonly, in the circle of visible things, it is difficult for us to lift our minds to the contemplation of invisible things. Our thoughts have been too much accustomed to creep; their heavy wings do no longer carry them, by a sudden flight, towards the celestial heights. Our preoccupations are for the world; this is the real disposition of our spirit — it has a great inclination for it. If we do not energetically react against that natural tendency, we shall be hurried by the stream of vanity far from truth. Attention is the prize of continued exertion — it supposes a firm resolution to remove every frivolous distraction. We must be watchful every moment to drive away those flocks of birds always ready to pick up the seed of eternal life as it falls on the soil. Yet attention is not sufficient, Christian truth claims a particular attention. It is not enough to bring great sagacity, a penetrating spirit, trained to study and fully determined to learn the truths which are presented. If it were only the question of a purely human knowledge, we should not require more. Religious truth has organs of its own, and by which it reveals itself to man. It addresses itself above all things to his heart and his conscience. There, in our moral being, is the inward eye, able to perceive the heavenly light; there is the sense of the Divine. Neither the understanding, nor the imagination, nor the reason, abandoned to itself, will ever receive a ray of it, because it may happen that we deny God and the invisible world, while we possess these faculties in a superior degree. Take heed, therefore, how ye hear. He only remembers it who tries to accomplish the Divine will, and who, from the always vague and movable impression, passes to positive acts. Besides, nothing is more sad, nothing, I should say, is more demoralizing, than to understand our duties and not perform them. To know the best and to do the worst is the perversion of perversions. Let us not take Christianity as Pharisees or as artists; let us take it seriously, as the rule of our life, a rule not only for the great days, but for the most ordinary course of existence.

(E. de Pressense, D. D.)

For be ye well assured that this is an infallible sign that some excellent and notable good is toward you, when the devil is so busy to hinder your hearing of the Word, which of all other things he doth most envy unto you. Therefore as he pointed Adam to another tree, lest he should go to the tree of life (Genesis 3.), so, knowing the Word to be like unto the tree of life, he appointeth you to other business, to other exercises, to other works, and to other studies, lest you should hear it and be converted to God, whereby the tribute and revenue of his kingdom should be impaired; therefore mark how many forces he hath bent against one little Scripture, to frustrate this counsel of Christ, "Take heed how you hear." First, he labours all that he can to stay us from hearing; to effect this, he keeps us at taverns, at plays, in our shops, and appoints us some other business at the same time, that when the bell calls to the sermon, we say, like the churlish guests, We cannot come (Matthew 22.). If he cannot stay us away with any business or exercise, then he casts fancies into our minds, and drowsiness into our heads, and sounds into our ears, and sets temptations before our eyes; that though we hear, yet we should not mark, like the birds which fly about the church. If he cannot stay our ears, nor slack our attention as he would, then he tickleth us to mislike something which was said, and by that make us reject all the rest. If we cannot mislike anything which is said, then he infecteth us with some prejudice of the preacher; he doth not as he teacheth, and therefore we less regard what he saith. If there be no fault in the man, nor in the doctrine, then, lest it would convert us, and reclaim us, he courseth all means to keep us from the consideration of it, until we have forgot it. To compass this, so soon as we have heard, he takes us to dinner, or to company, or to pastime, to remove our minds, that we should think no more of it. If it stay in our thoughts, and like us well, then he hath this trick; instead of applying the doctrine, which we should follow, he turns us to praise and extol the preacher. He made an excellent sermon! he hath a notable gift! I never heard any like him! He which can say so, hath heard enough; this is the repetition which you make of our sermons when you come home, and so to your business again till the next sermon come; a breath goeth from us, and a sound cometh to you, and so the matter is ended. The Jews did hear more than all the world beside, yet because they took no heed to that which they heard, therefore they crucified Him which came to save them, and became the cursedest people upon the earth, which were the blessedest nation before; therefore the A B C of a Christian is to learn the art of hearing. There is no seed which groweth so fast as God's seed, if it be sown well; therefore, that I may show you that method of hearing, which Christ commendeth here to His disciples, it is necessary to observe five things: first, the necessity of hearing; secondly, the fruit which cometh by hearing; thirdly, the kinds of hearers; fourthly, the danger of hearing amiss; fifthly, that manner of hearing, which will make you remember that which is said, and teach you more in a year than you have learned all your life. Is not this the cause why God doth not hear us, because we will not hear Him? Is not this the cause why ye are such doctors in the world, and such infants in the Church? Ye learned your trade in seven years, but you have not learned religion in all your years. Can you give any reason for it but this? You marked when your master taught you your trade, because you should live by it; but you marked not the preacher when he taught you religion, because you do not live by it. Come now to the danger by hearing amiss. Christ saith, "Take heed how you hear." An evil eye engendereth lust, and an evil tongue engendereth strife; but an evil ear maketh an heretic, and a schismatic, and an idolater. This careless hearing made God take away His Word from the Jews; therefore, you may hear the Word so as it may be taken from you, as the talent was from him that hid it (Matthew 25.); for God will not leave His pearls with swine; but as He saith, "What hadst thou to do to take My words in thy mouth, seeing thou hatest to be reformed?" so He will say, "What hadst thou to do to take My Word in thy ear, seeing thou hatest to be reformed?" The greatest treasure in the world is most despised, the star which should lead us to Christ, the ladder which should mount us to heaven, the water that should cleanse our leprosy, the manna that should refresh our hunger, and the Book that we should meditate on day and night (Psalm 1:2), lieth in our windows, no man readeth it, no man regardeth it; the love of God, and the love of knowledge, and the love of salvation is so cold, that we will not read over one Book for it, for all we spend so many idle times while we live. If Samuel had thought that God had spoken to him, he would not have slept; but because he thought it was not God, but Eli, therefore he slept; so, because you remember not that it is God which speaks, therefore you mark not. But if you remember Christ's saying, "He which heareth you, heareth Me, and he which despiseth you, despiseth Me," you would hear the voice of the preacher, as you would hear the voice of God. Now, to show you how you should hear; when Peter and John would make the cripple attentive, they said unto him, "Look upon us" (Acts 3.); so many, to sharpen their attention, desire to stand before the preacher, that they may look him in the face. By this little help Peter showeth that we had need to use many helps to make us hear well. Christ in the beginning of this chapter sends us to the husbandman to learn to hear. As he prepareth the ground before he soweth his seed, lest his seed should be lost, so we should prepare our hearts before we hear, lest God's seed be lost. What a shame is this, to remember every clause in your lease, and every point in your father's will; nay, to remember an old tale so long as you live, though it be long since you heard it; and the lessons which ye hear now will be gone within this hour, that you may ask, What hath stolen my sermon from me? Therefore that you may not hear us in vain, as you have heard others, my exhortation to you is, to record when you are gone that which you have heard.

(H. Smith.)

First, he giveth us a stock, to prove our husbandry, and then if we thrive with that, he doth add more unto it, now a little, and then a little, until at last the inheritance come too. As they which try a vessel, first put water into it, to see whether it will hold water, then they commit wine into it; so, first, God giveth us one grace; if we use that well, then he giveth another, and another, and another; according to that, "He which is found faithful in a little, shall be made lord over much." Thou shalt have a love to hear, read, and meditate: after thou shalt have a little knowledge to judge and speak of God's Word, of the Spirit, and of doctrines; then thou shalt ascend to faith, which will bring thee unto peace of conscience; then thou shalt meet with good books, and God will send thee teachers to instruct thee, and encourage thee, like the angels which came to Christ when He hungered. Thus a traveller passeth from town unto town, until he come to his inn; so a Christian passeth from virtue to virtue, until he come to heaven, which is the journey that every man must endeavour to go till death. Christ saith not, It shall be taken from them which have, but from them which "seem to have."

(H. Smith.)

Those to whom the gospel is preached must take heed how they hear; take heed as to the act, matter, manner.

1. As to the act: Take heed that ye hear. This is implied, and necessarily supposed.

2. As to the objector matter: So take heed what ye hear. How with Luke is what with Mark.

3. As to the manner: How. This is principally intended, though the other be necessary. It is in vain to hear, in vain to hear that which is good, except we hear it well. The manner being principally intended, I shall principally insist on it.I need not go far for reasons; this chapter affords abundance.

1. Few hear well. There are not many good hearers; the most miscarry; therefore there is need to take heed. Of four sorts of hearers in the parable, three are naught but one good.

2. There are many enemies to oppose, and many impediments to hinder you in hearing.

3. The advantage or disadvantage (Mark 4:24, 25). According as you measure to God in hearing, so will He measure to you in blessing or cursing.

4. The gospel, according as it is heard, is a great mercy or a great judgment, a blessing or a curse, therefore great reason to take heed. The abuse of the greatest mercy may curse it.

5. It is that by which you must be judged at the last day — Judge, &c., according to this gospel (Romans 2:16; John 12:48). If we neglect, we shall never taste of Christ. The children of the kingdom shall be cast out. It will be with you in this nation, and this place, as with the Jews — He turned from them to the Gentiles. He will take Christ and the gospel from you and give it to others; and when the gospel is gone, then look for destruction and desolation.The Lord convince you of the sinfulness of this sin!

1. It is a high contempt of God, of Christ. Contempt is the highest degree of dishonour; God is jealous of this.

2. If you will not hear God now, God will not hear you in the time of distress, though you may make many prayers (Isaiah 1:15). He will send you to the gods whom ye have served.

3. Consider the state of the damned, those who, for neglecting the light, are cast into outer darkness. Use

II. Exhortation to this duty. It is a duty of Christ's enjoining, and to His disciples. To further the practice of it, I shall

(1)remove impediments that hinder;

(2)prescribe means to facilitate and direct.

1. The impediments are ignorance, contempt, distractions, prejudice, obduration, bad ends or principles. Distractions: Wanderings, rovings of mind, will, affections, senses, caused by the cares of the world and lusts of the flesh; carefulness of other things makes careless of the Word. It is hard to hit a moving object, a bird in flight; as well, to as much purpose, sow the waves in a tempest, or cast seed upon branches tossed with the wind, as preach to a distracted, wandering hearer; nothing fixes, sinks, abides; his soul is like a highway, every man or beast has free passage. The remedy is to fix your whole soul on God. Prejudice: An ill conceit of the gospel; the matter, or the manner of delivery, plainness, simplicity; or ministers, their persons, conversation, office, or execution of it. To remove it, consider there is no reason, no room for prejudice against the gospel; those that despise it never saw its glory, nor tasted its sweetness — "If our gospel be hid, it is hid to them that are lost" (2 Corinthians 4:3). Shall we think worse of the sun because a blind man speaks against it, because an owl cannot behold it? and for ministers, there is glory enough in the gospel to gild them, how mean soever.

2. Directions how to hear.(1) Get a punctual knowledge of the state of your souls in reference to God. The reason is this, we must take heed how we hear, that we may hear fruitfully, that the Word may be profitable. It is most profitable when it is seasonable. It cannot be seasonable to you (whatever it be in itself), except you be acquainted with your soul's condition.(2) Before you hear, endeavour to get your souls into a capacity of hearing fruitfully, to get spiritual advantage by hearing. Take pains with your hearts in private before ye come, make them tender, fit to receive impressions. Set them open, that Christ may come in. Make room, empty them of sin and vanity, that the Spirit may work freely, with liberty, without interruption. Get them melted in prayer, sublimated, raised by meditation.(3) Receive the Word, and every part of it, as concerning thee in particular. Get knowledge of your greatest wants, weakest graces, strongest lusts, worst distempers, coldest affections, difficultest encumbrances, that so you may know how to apply the Word.(4) Be not satisfied with anything in hearing, but the presence of God. That special presence, when operative, makes the Word effectual to the ends appointed. The presence of the Lord His glory filled the tabernacle under the law; and His presence is as abundant and glorious under the gospel.(5) Take heed of suppressing any good motions raised by the Word. Constant hearers have experience of some convictions of sin, and resolve to leave it and mind the soul. Nourish these, take heed of smothering them. They are the blessed issues of heaven; will you stifle, murder them in the conception, make them like an untimely birth? They are buds springing from the immortal seed; will you nip them? They are sprigs planted by the hand of Christ, which would grow into a tree of life; will ye pluck them up by the roots, expose them to the frosts, break them while young and tender? They are sparks kindled by the breath of God, heavenly fire; will you quench it?(6) Come with resolution to do whatever ye shall hear, to comply with the whole will of God without reserves. There must be no more respect of truths than respect of persons. Obedience is the sweetest harmony the Lord can hear on earth, the perfection of it is a consonancy to the Divine will; if every string, every act be not screwed up thereto, there can be no concert, nothing but discord, harsh and unpleasing in His ear. It is not enough to promise God to the half of the kingdom; halting obedience will never come to heaven: all, or none.(7) Mix it with faith — "The word preached did not profit them, not being mixed with faith in them that heard it" (Hebrews 4:2). Faith is a necessary ingredient to all spiritual services.(8) Receive the truth in the love of it — "Because they received not the love of the truth," i.e., truth in love, "that they might be saved " (2 Thessalonians 2:10). He that would hear savingly, must hear it with love; not out of fear, custom, not for by-ends, for credit, profit, preferment; but out of love to the naked truth, for its own native loveliness, without extrinsical consideration; as the truth is in Jesus, of Him, from Him.

(D. Clarkson, B. D.)

I. The dignity and excellence of the truths contained in the gospel appears in the fullest evidence when we reflect that they are the words of God, the dictates of that eternal wisdom from whence all light, all science is derived.

II. Still, my brethren, you will neither read nor hear the Word of God with any fruit, unless you bring with you suitable dispositions.

(J. Archer.)

Your mode of hearing, therefore, should correspond, on the one hand, to the character you sustain as rational and accountable creatures; and, on the other, to the unspeakable importance of Divine realities. Hence we remark —

I. That it becomes you to hear ATTENTIVELY, and WITH DISCRIMINATION AND JUDGMENT.

II. That it becomes you to hear, on all occasions, WITH AN EARNEST DESIRE TO BE PERSONALLY BENEFITED.

1. Among those who appear in our sanctuaries, there are multitudes of merely formal attendants.

2. Among those who hear us, there are also frequently not a few actuated solely by motives of idle curiosity.

3. There are others who make it their entire business to sit in judgment upon the merits and defects of our addresses, both as to their style and as to their matter.

4. But, probably, the most numerous class of our hearers who stand in need of rectified habits, or, at least, that class which comprehends the greatest number of truly pious individuals, consists of those who hear for any but themselves.

III. Always hear with the impression upon your minds, that THE OPPORTUNITY YOU ARE ENJOYING MAY BE THE LAST YOU WILL EVER BE FAVOURED WITH.

IV. See to it that you always hear IN A DEVOTIONAL FRAME OF MIND.

(J. P. Dobson.)

I. DIRECTIONS FOR HEARING.

1. Hear the Word from right motives and for right ends. Multitudes go to church because their fathers went, their neighbours go, and they do not love to be singular. Many go, not to hear, but to see or to be seen. Some hear sermons to furnish their heads with knowledge, not to enrich their hearts with grace.

2. Our hearing should be preceded, accompanied, and followed by earnest prayers for the Divine blessing.

3. Hear the Word of God with pleasure and gratitude. Compare your circumstances with those of your forefathers, who had no other instructor than nature's light; and with those of the many dark places of the earth, full of the habitations of cruelty.

4. Cultivate an honest, impartial love to truth, and a meek, humble, candid, and teachable spirit. Nothing ought to be admitted as an article of faith, or a rule of life, which is not either expressly contained in, or, by just consequence, inferred from the sacred oracles. Meekness is the fruit of the Spirit. Apply, therefore, to Him to form in you, by His grace, that humble, teachable disposition, which is so necessary to render outward instruction truly profitable.

5. Hear the Word with understanding and judgment.

6. Hear with attention, seriousness, and solemnity of spirit. Men are renewed and sanctified by the truth. But truth, not heard with serious attention, has no such salutary energy.

7. Let such a lively faith mix itself with your hearing as will produce affections suited to the truths you hear. A report, however interesting in its own nature, if not credited, can neither engage our affections nor influence our practice.

8. Wisely apply what you hear to your own case; and for that end, endeavour to be well acquainted with the true state of your souls.

II. DIRECTIONS AFTER HEARING.

1. Endeavour to remember what you have heard. A transient glance discovered some blemish on his face; but the faint impression it made on his imagination quickly vanishes, and, not observing it distinctly, he is at no pains to wipe it off.

2. Meditate, and expostulate with your hearts, upon what you have heard. Think not, when the minister has done preaching, that your work is over.

3. Converse with your fellow-Christians about what you have heard.

4. Reduce what you have heard to practice.

5. Often examine how you have heard and improved the Word.

6. If you have received any benefit by the Word, ascribe to God all the glory.

(J. Erskine, D. D.)

I. SOME THINGS ARE TO GO BEFORE HEARING.

1. Preparation.

(1)Getting the heart impressed with an awful sense of the majesty and holiness of that God into whose presence we are going, and whose word we are to hear (Psalm 89:6).

(2)Banishing out of the heart worldly cares that are lawful at other times (Matthew 13:7).

(3)Application of the blood of Christ to the soul for removing guilt, and doing away any controversy betwixt God and the soul (Amos 3:3).

(4)Purging the heart of carnal and corrupt lusts and affections (1 Peter 2:1, 2).

(5)Stirring up in the heart spiritual desires (1 Peter 2:2).

2. Prayer. Pray

(1)For assistance to the minister (2 Thessalonians 3:1).

(2)For a meal to ourselves (Psalm 119:18).

(3)For an outpouring of the Spirit in His own ordinances.

II. SOME THINGS ARE TO GO ALONG WITH HEARING.

1. Attending unto the Word diligently. This implies —(1) Waiting diligently upon the ordinances, so as people make it their business to catch opportunities of the Word, and let none slip which Providence will allow them to overtake. They that are only chance customers to ordinances, whose attendance is ruled by their own conveniences, without conscience of duty, causing them to take them only now and then as their fancy takes them, cannot expect good of them.(2) A fixing and bending of the ear and mind to what is spoken. Hence is that counsel of the wise man (Proverbs 2:1, 2).(3) A discerning of what they hear, so as to distinguish betwixt truth and error, the corn and the chaff (Murk 4:24; Acts 17:11).(4) An endeavouring to know the mind of God in His Word, to hear with understanding.

2. Receiving the Word rightly.

(1)With faith. A faith of assent. And a faith of application.

(2)With love. A love of esteem, highly prizing it. A love of desire after it. A love of complacency in it.

3. Laying it up in our hearts.

III. SOME THINGS ARE TO FOLLOW AFTER HEARING THE WORD.

1. Meditation on it in your hearts (Psalm 1:2).

2. Conferring of it on your discourse.

3. The main thing is practising it in your lives.

(T. Boston, D. D.)

Jedediah Buxton, the famous peasant, who could multiply nine figures by nine in his head, was once taken to see Garrick act. When he went back to his own village, he was asked what he thought of the great actor and his doings. "Oh!" he said, "he did not know; he had only seen a little man strut about the stage, and repeat 7,956 words." Here was a want of the ability to appreciate what he saw, and the exercise of the reigning faculty to the exclusion of every other. Similarly our hearers, if destitute of the spiritual powers by which the gospel is discerned, fix their thoughts on our words, tones, gestures, or countenance. and make remarks upon us which from a spiritual point of view are utterly absurd. How futile are our endeavours without the Holy Spirit!

(C. H. Spurgeon.)

— "I have an ear for other preachers," Sir John Cheke used to say, "but I have a heart for Latimer." Here is a very clear and main distinction. Too often men hear the word sounding its drums and trumpets outside their walls, and they are filled with admiration of the martial music, but their city gates are fast closed and vigilantly guarded, so that the truth has no admittance, but only the sound of it. Would to God we knew how to reach men's affections, for the heart is the target we aim at, and unless we hit it we miss altogether.

(C. H. Spurgeon.)

We crossed and recrossed the river several times by the ferry-boat at Basle. We had no object in the world but merely amusement and curiosity, to watch the simple machinery by which the same current is made to drift the boat in opposite directions from side to side. To other passengers it was a business, to us a sport. Our hearers use our ministry in much the same manner when they come to it out of the idlest curiosity, and listen to us as a means of spending a pleasant hour. That which should ferry them across to a better state of soul, they use as a mere pleasure-boat, to sail up and down in, making no progress after years of hearing. Alas! it may be sport to them, but it is death to us, because we know it will ere long be death to them.

(C. H. Spurgeon.)

What a mistake to imagine that, by hearing first one preacher and then another, we can derive benefit to our souls i More is wanted than such hearing. A raven may fly from cage to cage, but it is not thereby changed into a dove. Go from room to room of the royal feast, and the sight of the tables will never stay thy hunger. Reader, the main thing is to have and hold the truth personally and inwardly; if this be not seen to, thou wilt die in thy sins, though ten thousand voices should direct thee to the way of salvation. Pity indeed is it that the bulk of hearers are hearers only, and are no more likely to go to heaven than the seats they sit on in the assembly of the saints.

(C. H. Spurgeon.)

Picture to yourselves the contrast between a great orchestra containing some hundred performers and instruments, and that small music-room built of ivory, no bigger than a cherry-stone, which we call an ear, where there is ample accommodation for all of them to play together. The players, indeed, and their instruments, are not admitted. But what of that if their music be? Nay, if you only think of it, what we call s musical performance is, after all, but the last rehearsal. The true performance is within the ear's music-room, and each one of us has the whole orchestra to himself. When we thus realize the wondrous capabilities of the organ of hearing, I think we shall not fail to find an intellectual and aesthetical as well as a great moral admonition in the Divine words, " He that hath ears to hear, let him hear."

(Dr. Wilson.)

"I reckon that's very much o' what the Lord Jesus meant when He said, 'Take heed how ye hear.' Whatever it means, an' whatever it don't mean, it means this plain enough — Don't hear anyhow. You see that was the way with the ground that didn't prosper — it took the seed all anyhow. There was the wayside; it let the seed come just as it could, and o' course it all got trodden under foot, or was eaten up by the fowls, an' not a grain was left. An' then I daresay Brother Wayside went complainin' that he couldn't get any good under that preacher. There was the weedy ground, too, let it fall in anyhow among the thorns an' thistles, an' they grew up an' choked it. An' I shouldn't wonder but Sister Weedy-ground whispered to Brother Wayside very piously, that for her part she did wish they had a preacher that would stir them up. Then there was Mister Stoney-ground, who liked it very much, an' nodded to everybody over the nice sermon, but when the sun was up, that is, when dinner-time came, he could hardly remember the text. They all heard: but they were anyhow hearers. But there was dear old Father Good-ground, whenever he heard the Word it got in an' went down, an' took root, an' sprang up, an' bare fruit, an' brought forth a hundred-fold; such wonderful crops o' love, an' joy, an' peace, that set all the folks a scratchin' their heads however he could manage it! Yet it was no such great secret; he got ready beforehand, that was all. He prepared for the seed. He'd have been weedy-ground, too, only he had been down on his knees, an' pulled up the chokin' cares an' Saturday's worries; he had picked out the stones, an' had ploughed up the field, an' had given the seed a chance, that was all, an' so he got a harvest. You see there was the same sower, an' the same seed, an' yet it was only the ground that was got ready beforehand that got any good." —

(From "Daniel Quorra.")

That we may so hear, as to profit by hearing, it is required —

1. That we hear with attention.

2. That we hear with impartiality.

3. That we hear with meekness.

4. That we hear the Word with an actual intention of practising what we hear.

(Bp. Smalridge.)

1. A critical spirit is a great hindrance to profitable hearing.

2. A formal spirit is a great hindrance to profitable hearing.

3. The preparation of the heart is necessary to profitable hearing.

4. A teachable spirit is needful for profitable hearing.

5. Attention is necessary to profitable hearing.

(J. Kelly.)

There is such a thing. The really eloquent listener is the devout listener — one who has come up to church as to the house of God, to meet God there, to sit at His feet, to learn of Him, with a heart anxious to know His will that he may do it. When people rush from their late beds, or their studied toilets, or their newspapers, to the house of God, without a moment's preparation of serious thought, or reading of the Word, or prayer, what wonder that they find the services tedious and the sermon dull? The deaf might as well go to hear Beethoven's symphonies, or the blind to witness the glories of a sunset, as for such to go and hear a sermon with a reasonable expectation of finding it eloquent profitable, or interesting.

(Anon.)

There is a common consent among mankind that there should be some preparedness for worship. I see the visible signs of it here to-day. Before the Sabbath dawned you began to prepare clean linen and brighter garments than those of common days. It is but an outward and common matter; still, within the shell there lieth a kernel. My counsel to you is — cleanse your hearts rather than your garments.

(C. H. Spurgeon.)

To give more weight to this exhortation, let us consider —

I. WHO IS HE WHO SPEAKS TO US? God Himself.

1. By the Holy Book.

2. By our preaching, in the measure in which it is approved of Him.

3. By the Holy Spirit.

II. WHAT DOES HE TELL US? That which is of the utmost consequence to us, for time and for eternity — the central truth which sways all others.

III. WHAT KIND OF ATTENTION DOES THE TRUTH REVEALED BY HIM REQUIRE? Mere attention is not sufficient. Christian truth claims a particular attention. It is not enough to bring great sagacity, a penetrating spirit, trained to study and fully determined to learn the truths which are presented. Religious truth has organs of its own, by which it reveals itself to man. Take heed, therefore, how ye hear. If your heart is not well prepared, if your conscience is not upright, you will certainly have sounds ringing in your ears: but those sounds, which bring to others an unspeakable joy, will for you be lost in the air where they vibrated.

IV. WHAT IS THE COST OF DESPISING THE TRUTH? The Word of God does not return to Him without effect, it comes back to Him after having saved us or ruined us.

(E. de Pressense, D. D.)

The words of the text are necessary not only to give point to the parable of the sower, and to send it home to the hearts of the hearers, but also to prevent them from putting a disastrous misinterpretation upon the parable, from supposing that "the state of mind described as existing in different men, originated in some inherent necessity."

I. THE HEARER SHOULD BE PREPARED AS WELL AS THE PREACHER.

1. He should have his body, so far as possible, in such a condition that it will not interfere with the free action of the mind. Some people break the Sabbath on a Saturday.

2. The mind should be prepared. Worldly cares and preoccupations should be bidden to stand aside.

3. Above all, the spirit should be prepared, be devout, humble, receptive.

II. THE PREPARED HEARER WILL HEAR ATTENTIVELY, in the spirit of the words uttered by Cornelius to Peter (Acts 10:33).

1. There cannot have been proper attention when a man goes away crediting the preacher with something which he never dreamt of saying.

2. There cannot have been proper attention when a sermon, which cost its preacher considerable pains in the production, is forgotten in less than a week.

3. There cannot have been proper attention when the sermon leaves no lasting result in the hearts and lives of the hearers. "Faith cometh by hearing," as well as "hearing by the Word of God."

III. THE PREPARED HEARER WILL NOT HEAR CENSORIOUSLY. I do not say that you should not hear critically in the true sense of that much-abused word. For true criticism is nothing more or less than judgment. But to bring a sound and healthy judgment to bear upon what we hear is one thing, to listen in a spirit of fault-finding is another. The man of censorious spirit; the man who thinks less of the sun than of his spots, can never hear to profit. Listen charitably and patiently.

IV. THE PREPARED HEARER WILL CARRY AWAY SOMETHING VALUABLE FROM THE POOREST PREACHER AND THE FEEBLEST SERMON. AS good George Herbert has it:

"God calleth preaching folly. Grudge thou not

To pick out treasures from an earthen pot.

The worst speak something good. If all lack sense,

God takes a text, and preacheth patience.

He that gets patience, and the blessing which

Preachers conclude with, hath not lost his pains."

(J. R. Bailey.)

To him shall be given.
Hearing and doing should go together. Knowledge that is practical, blossoming out into character, shall keep on growing from knowledge to knowledge, more and more. But knowledge that never blossoms into character, shall by and by cease even to be knowledge. The tree that bears no fruit shall not be fruitless only; it shall rot and die. The idea is, that having is something quite other than mere passive possession — the upturned, nerveless palm of beggary. Having, real having, is eager, instant, active possession, the sinewy grip. Having is using. Anything not used is already the same as lost. It will be lost by and by.

I. This law of use is PHYSICAL law. Exercise, to be sure, may be overdone, as in training for athletic contests. But, on the other hand, muscular force gains nothing by being husbanded. Having is using. And to him that hath, shall be given. He shall grow stronger and stronger. What is difficult, perhaps impossible to-day, shall be easy to-morrow. He that keeps on day by day lifting the calf, shall lift the bullock by and by. So, even in this lowest sphere, the law is inexorable. Having is using. Not using is losing. Idleness is paralysis.

II. This law of use is COMMERCIAL law. Whoever indolently inherits an estate, never really comes into possession of it. Most of our famous merchants of to-day, of yesterday, are, or were, the architects of their own fortunes. Wealth goes down easily enough into the second generation, but not so easily into the third, and still less easily into the fourth. We take a tremendous risk in bequeathing fortunes to our children. Unless the children have been very carefully trained in the art of getting, they probably have not learned the art of keeping.

III. This law of use is MENTAL law Even knowledge, like the manna of old, must needs be fresh. It will not keep. The successful teacher is always the diligent and eager learner. It is related of Thorwaldsen that when at last he finished a statue that satisfied him, he told his friends that his genius was leaving him. Having reached a point beyond which he could push no further, his instinct told him that he had already begun to fail. So it proved. The summit of his fame was no broad plateau, but a sharp Alpine ridge. The last step up had to be quickly followed by the first step down. It is so in every. thing. New triumphs must only dictate new struggles. If it be Alexander of Macedon, the Orontes must suggest the Euphrates, and the Euphrates the Indus. Always it must be on and on. Genius is essentially athletic, resolute, aggressive, persistent. Possession is grip, that tightens more and more. Ceasing to gain, we begin to lose.

IV. This law of use is also MORAL law. Here lies the secret of character. There is no such thing as standing still. And character, at last, is not inheritance, nor happy accident, but hardest battle and victory. From country to city is like some great change in latitude, and soil, and climate. As in going to the tropics, so here also the senses are stormed and captured. Luxuries, once only imagined, as a Greenlander might imagine an orange-grove, are now always in sight. Gains, that once seemed fabulous, are now the common talk of the street, the office, and the club. Something is in the air that poisons the blood like malaria. The muscles relax. The will relaxes. And, before we think of it, there is the old story, the old sad story, of mere passive and pliant goodness brought to bitter grief and shame. Or else the danger is overcome, and the manhood of man escapes unhurt; like the three young Hebrews out of the furnace in Babylon, like Daniel out of the lions' den. If prayer be, what has pictured it, the watch-cry of a soldier under arms, guarding the tent and standard of his General, then the habit of it ought to be growing on us. For the night is round about us, and, though the stars are out, our enemies are not asleep. If the Bible be what we say it is, then we should know it better and better. The longer we live, and the more we look beneath the surface of things, the more there is of mystery. So of all the virtues and graces. They will not take care of themselves. Self-denial and self-control, as against self-seeking and self-indulgence; absolute, chivalric integrity, as against the sharpness of the market; unshaken faith in God and man, in spite of all the mystery and meanness of life; the one simple purpose of loyal, steadfast stewardship and service in our day and generation; these neither come unasked, nor stay unurged. Easy things are of little worth. The spontaneities are mostly bad; mere weeds and briers. For the whole Church, in its organic life, the law is just the same. King David conquers out in every possible direction, north, east, and south. Solomon, settling down to the enjoyment of inherited dominion, loses the paternal conquests, bequeathing to his son a kingdom doomed already to dismemberment. So must the Church be always militant just so long as any body, or any thing, in this world remains unchristian. Such is the law: always the law, everywhere the law. Its law is not simple growth, as of the palm-tree, but conflict, as of armies. He that hath, to him shall be given; and he that hath not, from him shall be taken even that which he hath. Be it remembered, however, that every gain is a vital factor. Interest changes constantly to capital, and changes rapidly. The progression is swiftly geometrical. It is the beginning always that costs. The poor invalid, after long confinement, is borne out to the carriage for a morning drive. If it agrees with him, the half-hour to-day may be doubled to-morrow. In toil or trade no dollar comes so hard as the first one. The next two or ten come easier; and more and more easy all along. A solitary virtue in some human life, if such a thins were possible, would be a forlorn and dreary sight: like a shaft of granite in a sandy waste, or a single bird in a silent sky. Thank God, the virtues go together: like trees in a forest; like birds in white-winged flocks, filling the whole sky with song. First, the chief end of discipline is high personal character. Second, character is triumph over temptation. Third, the surest conservative of character is service. Finally, let me emphasize, by repeating the two great lessons of our text. The first is, that beginnings are difficult: all beginnings, but especially in character; difficult by reason of bad appetites and passions. The best habits are not the ones most easily formed. "He that hath!" It is a great thing to have. The second lesson is, that gains and losses grow always more rapid and easy. Character grows always steadily less and less conscious of its own determinations. Moses knew not that his face shone. Samson knew not that his strength was gone. Bad habit begins easily enough. Good habit begins with effort, as one would climb a steep mountain, or lift a heavy gate from its hinges. But it ends in second nature. And the dividing line is crossed as silently as the tide swings, coming in this instant, going out the next; as silently as the sun crosses the Equator, northward and southward, carrying summer with it, leaving winter behind it.

(R. D. Hitchcock, D. D.)

That which Shakespeare and Wordsworth had of the seeing eye and the understanding heart is shared by you and me if we can read their writings with any appreciation. Have so much of that, of what they had, and in that measure there is given to you what was given to them. To him that hath it shall be given. Only bring to nature and life something of mind as free as mind should be, and you shall find them not sparing of their gift. Not only in regard to literature, art, science, the end of which is thought, but in regard to thought and feeling, in which the practical interests of men and nations are involved, to have in one's self something which is real at all, or worth anything, is to be in the way of having much.

(J. Service, D. D.)

More or less in every sphere of thought and activity, the inducement which a man has to cultivate what nature has given him in the shape of power and faculty, is that the reward is great. Much is given to him that has. That inducement is strong here as it is nowhere else. , it is said, when he failed as a lawyer, took the infinite for his career. As far as the infinite is synonymous with religion it is a term for a career which is open to every man, and in which success is no question of chance but one of effort and endeavour. In regard to religion, as in regard to every other department of human life, there is, of course, a difference between man and man, between class and class, people and people, generation and generation. By nature one man has much of what you call religious feeling, another man little. That is a fact not to be ignored. But whatever a man has in this kind, be it little or much, there is this inducement to cultivate it, that as far as, by putting it into exercise and so really possessing himself of it, he can be said to have it, much is given to him in it and with it, much in proportion to what he already has. Every step forward and upward in the career of Augustine's — the infinite — the wider and greater is the prospect which for the soul is not prospect but property.

(J. Service, D. D.)

From him shall be taken even that which he seemeth to have.
Apparent arbitrariness in this utterance. Not so, however. It is the expression of a law which underlies all things. Similar words occur frequently in the Gospels, in connection not only with parable of sower, but also with those of talents, pounds, &c. Thus the universality of its application is indicated.

I. WHAT IS THE NATURE OF TRUE POSSESSION?

1. It is something which is part of a man's very self.

2. It is something which he turns to account, and does not allow to fust in him unused.

II. THERE IS A SEEMING POSSESSION WHICH IS FALSE. Does not conform to these two conditions. It is either external to the man, or unemployed by him.

III. TRUE POSSESSIONS TRULY USED EVER INCREASE, WHILE UNTRUE POSSESSIONS VANISH. "Seemeth" because it was offered him; "hath not" because he did not accept it. Apply to the highest possessions. Gospel privileges. Take heed how ye use them — how ye hear.

(Anon.)

The principle enunciated is one which applies to many other things besides religious lessons and spiritual gifts. We all of us know for instance that there is a learning which is no learning; that there is a wisdom which is no wisdom; that there is a strength which is no strength; and a skill which is no skill. We know very well what is meant for instance by learning which is got up for a special occasion and is not part of a man's real knowledge, which has not, as it were, mixed itself up with his faculties, and of which he does not understand the fundamental principles, and cannot tell what are the relations of it to other kinds of knowledge, or what is the right application of it to ourselves. Such knowledge as that prepared for any particular purpose may be entirely possessed and enjoyed at the moment after it has been so prepared, and yet everybody knows how entirely it passes away and is forgotten. For although the man had it in one sense, in another he had it not. So again, for instance, those who know anything of the writings of Aristotle will remember how he describes the spurious kinds of courage. There is, he says, a courage which is merely born of ignorance, which a man feels when he is in great danger; because he does not know what the danger is, he does not perceive its extent or how serious is his risk. That same man, when this danger was hidden from him, was perfectly calm and collected, yet if he knew what really was around him would very probably prove a mere coward, altogether unable to keep the balance of his mind. Just as we are told that sometimes men who have walked past precipices in the dark without the least sensation of fear, have turned sick and faint at heart when they have seen the danger they had incurred. So he says there is a courage which is born of knowledge, that courage which a man exercises when in danger because he knows precisely what are the limits and what the extent of that danger, knows exactly how he can deal with it, and consequently is able to keep himself perfectly calm and collected where others would be seriously afraid. Such courage is indeed real and genuine as far as it goes, and yet that very same man if he were put in circumstances where his knowledge would no longer apply, if he found himself in the greatest danger of which he knew nothing and the limits of which he could not estimate, might possibly be filled with an unreasonable panic, and lose his presence of mind when most he needed it. But true courage is that which rests upon real principle. It does not depend upon circumstances, but on a sense of duty which makes a man brave because he ought to be brave, and his master who put him there requires that no want of presence of mind, no disturbance of the balance of his intellect should interfere with the service which he has to do. The difference between them is that one man has courage really, and the other man while he has courage, yes, and as far as it goes, genuine courage, yet after all has it not. But our Lord is here of course applying this principle to the lessons which He Himself was teaching. "Take heed how ye hear!" He is applying it to religious instruction and spiritual gifts, and to the service of God. And it is not difficult if we turn to the Old Testament to find instances which will illustrate most clearly for us the application of this principle to human character. Thus when we read how Saul put away the wizards in Israel, plainly because he desired seriously to fulfill the will of God, we have no reason to doubt the sincerity of his desire. We have no reason to suppose it was hypocrisy, as we commonly use the word: that he desired to wear a religious character in the eyes of his fellows, and to obtain the approval of Samuel the prophet by doing the will of God. Yet we find afterwards this same Saul in his darkest need, when he cannot obtain counsel any longer from God, turns to the witch of Endor for advice, and thus falsifies all his previous services. Or to come down later still. Look at Ahab the king of Israel. He, we are told, after the slaughter of Naboth the Jezreelite, was reproved by Elijah the prophet in such stern language that he was struck, it may be with alarm, or it may be remorse, and showed every token of genuine repentance. He humbled himself and wept, and we are told that his repentance was accepted by God, and God Himself made an immediate acknowledgment of it, and therefore we know it could not have been merely a false exhibition of regret. But was Ahab really penitent? Are we able to say afterwards that his life was changed? In the very next chapter we find that he imprisons Micaiah the prophet because he will not speak smooth things to him, and then comes down the final judgment of God on the wicked king. But once more to turn to the instances which would naturally strike every reader of the Old Testament as the most striking instance of all, let us look at the familiar history of the prophet Balaam, and when we read it what do we see? Do we see a man who had no desire to obey God's will: a man who was simply a rebel against the truth that was revealed to him? On the contrary, we know that he was a prophet to whom God's will was plainly shown, and we see that be was a wicked man, and that he died a wicked man's death. But have we any reason to say that his obedience to the Lord was entirely hypocritical? So far from that we see plainly that he is resolute to de exactly that which he is bidden. He does not flinch for a moment from the path of strict obedience. Not even in the presence of the king who could advance him to honour, not even there does he fail to pronounce the blessing which God requires him to pronounce, yet was his obedience all genuine? We can plainly see that his heart was set upon finding some way or other of reconciling Obedience in the letter with disobedience in the spirit, and going to the very verge of what is forbidden. He is resolute to do what he is told, but he will go as near as he possibly can to what he is told not to do. All through he is hoping that some way may be found by which the service of God and the service of man may be reconciled, and though he does what he is told his wish is for self-indulgence. He has obedience and genuine obedience, and yet he has it not. It is worthless although it is there. And if we turn to the New Testament we may find similar illustrations which I need not describe at so much length. Such, for instance, was the character of the man who buried his lord's money in the earth. He had the talent which his lord had given him, and yet he had it not. Now, brethren, it is not difficult to see that all this applies also to ourselves, and to our own lives. We, too, if we choose to look can easily find many respects in which perhaps we really have and yet have not, and assuredly many in which we are in danger o" coming under the censure of our Lord. Let us, for instance, speak of some of the doctrines which we all hold. Let us take the doctrine of the omnipresence of God, one of the fundamental truths of the Christian faith, and which no Christian doubts for a single moment, and one which, if we did not believe, we should never venture to call ourselves Christians at all. We believe that God is present everywhere, and that He sees everything we do, and that He knows everything we think. We believe that His is the last, the supreme, the decisive judgment upon all our lives. And now let me ask you, if we have this doctrine, may it not sometimes nevertheless be said that we have it not? Let me ask you how often it may be the case that things that you would do when other people are not by, you would be unwilling, ashamed, afraid to do in the presence of others. Can it be said we are real believers in the omnipresence of God if it has no effect whatever upon our lives? Let me turn now, brethren, not to other doctrines, but rather to characters and circumstances of life. Let me, for instance, compare for a moment two different men under different circumstances who yet, under many respects, shall seem to be precisely alike. I will suppose two men who come here to church and who take a part in the service and worship of God, who listen to His Word when read and hear the message which God's minister has to deliver. I will suppose these two men are both of them touched and moved, that they have heard words which in some way or other happen to suit their own particular ease, and I will suppose their hearts are stirred within them, and they feel somehow as if they had learnt a fresh lesson and caught a new sight of God's truth, as if something was cleared up before them which had not before been plain to them; and they go away and feel, "I have been the better for coming here to church; that service has done me good," and with that with one man there it ends. It is a genuine feeling; there is no hypocrisy in it at all, but there it ends and there is no more of it. But the other man, once his conscience is awaked, inasmuch as he is always on the watch to do what his conscience bids him, finds that there is a difference to be made in his own personal life, he sees something that he ought to change, he perceives something that he ought to elevate and purify and make more heavenly; he perceives something that he ought to give up, and some characteristic which is not quite consistent with the true service of God, he says he must cleanse himself from everything of that sort, and accordingly it has made a real difference — slight perhaps-.very slight, it is but the service of one afternoon, but it makes a real difference. Now here the two men have received both the same spiritual gifts, the same spiritual teaching, but the one man hath it and the other hath it not. To have the truths of God is to live in them and for them; to rise towards them, to grow in them, to learn somewhat more of God by them; it is to make them part of our lives constantly by day and by night, and unless we can make the doctrine of God outs in that sense, then we shall have to learn that they are not ours at all.

(Bp. Temple.)

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